For the second straight day, the Detroit Tigers proved it's not how a team starts a game that's important, but how it finishes. Though a first inning run planted some early seeds of doubt, a thunderous offense quickly responded again, leading in Detroit's 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
On the first pitch of the game, the Rays got a double from Desmond Jennings. Two batters later, he scored on an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly for the 1-0 lead. Detroit, though, responded. Ian Kinsler and the healthy Victor Martinez crushed a pair of two-run home runs, and Torii Hunter left the yard. It was a season high for the team, which provided a 5-1 lead. The next inning, it swelled to 6-1.
Things calmed considerably after all the early fireworks from both sides. Erik Bedard was chased from the game, and his replacement Cesar Ramos only held the fort for one inning. Hunter added his second RBI of the night with a single in the fourth, making it 7-1.
Max Scherzer, meanwhile, settled in beautifully. After the messy first inning, he would only allow one more hit the rest of the way, while carving up seven Tampa Bay batters via strikeout. Detroit added another insurance in the sixth off the bat of J.D. Martinez, who grounded out but plated a run when the Rays failed to turn a double play.
After he put the finishing touches on the eighth, Scherzer was lifted for Chad Smith, who dusted the Rays with a 1-2-3 ninth, sending the home fans happy for the fourth straight day in a row.
As the joke went, the toughest decision Brad Ausmus had to make on this night was what to do when Nick Castellanos had to use the bathroom while on deck. Naturally, he replaced him with super-sub Don Kelly.
Top Tiger: Max Scherzer. Detroit had turned in quality starts in 12 of 14 games entering this contest, so it was no surprise to see Scherzer follow suit. Much like Justin Verlander yesterday, Scherzer got stronger coming off a rocky first inning. "The consistency and break of the slider, that was the pitch that made (Scherzer) tough," Ausmus said. It was yet another quality start for the Tigers' staff, who have been piling them up lately.
Bungling Bengal: None. The Tigers had a complete game tonight, with offense, defense and pitching all showing up. For the second day in a row, it was a harmonious night for the team, which means nobody bungled.
The Turning Point: Detroit pounds three home runs in the bottom of the first. Any chance the Rays had at hanging with the Tigers and planting some early seeds of doubt went out the window in a hurry when Detroit put runners on base, then cleared the bases with three monster home runs. It's tough for a team to rally after getting knocked around with some staggering blows. In this case, it helped put the Rays away quick.
Play Of The Game: Eugenio Suarez makes a leaping catch of a line drive. After Ben Zobrist scorched a ball that looked destined to split the gap, Suarez soared through the air to nab it, barely getting the ball but trapping it in his glove. It was a fantastic areal display for Suarez, who despite a few errors recently, continues to get comfortable with the speed of a major league game.
Stat Of The Game: 13, the amount of games in a row the Tigers have scored over three runs. Interestingly enough, Ausmus said afterwards that simply because the team has been putting up runs now doesn't mean that it will happen again or even happen consistently. He did praise the offense for swinging the bat well through this stretch, however.
Quote To Note: "The three home runs, it certainly doesn't guarantee a win, but you feel good about it when you put that number of runs up early and back it up again a few more times." –Brad Ausmus. Detroit's monster first inning helped allow for some breathing room, and quickly chipped away at the Rays psyche after they had scored. The story of the night was the Tigers' fast start, especially after Tampa Bay drew first blood.
What's Next: The Tigers play the second game of their four game set against Tampa Bay on July 4. Detroit sends Drew Smyly (4-7) to the mound, against Alex Cobb (3-6). The game begins at 7:08 p.m.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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